I hear from David Wilford that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has declared that American publishers cannot edit works authored in nations under trade embargoes, including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Cuba. Treasury says that although publishing the work is legal, editing is a “service,” and it’s illegal to perform services for embargoed nations. It can be punishable by fines of up to a half-million dollars or jail terms as long as 10 years.
My first reaction was to wonder whether they’re so ignorant that they think editing is a service, but copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, designing, shooting, printing, publicizing, distributing, and selling are not. If you did no more than xerox off loose facsimile manuscripts from the writer’s original, you’d be performing a service.
But on second thought, I think they’re aware that editing is not distinguishable from publishing. I think this is meant to keep us from publishing works written in those nations, whether or not the Constitution says that we may do so.